It is common to hear people saying that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done, and this is a common excuse for people who feel they aren’t achieving their maximum potential. It is the reason people do not start weight training programmes, earn as much money as they could, have multiple hobbies, spend enough time with the kids, write that breakthrough novel… Whatever the problem a lack of time seems to be the downfall of many.
When you think about it though, there are 24 hours in a day and 364 days in a year. That means that there’s 8,736 hours in a year, which is 524,160 minutes. Over the space of two years that is over a million minutes. Now that is actually an awful lot of time.
But those are just statistics right? Well if you think about it, those statistics are the same for everyone and the same for all the great leaders, artists and philosophers on the planet. If they can fit their day into that time then surely you can too.
What they had that many do not, other than drive and determination, is time management skills. Time management and vision go hand in hand as they are both all about being able to think about the long term and work towards goals. If you can master those two things then you will be able to get a lot more out of life and have more time left over at the end of the day to relax and chill out. Here are just a couple of tips for how to improve your time management:
Set realistic goals
Set goals on both a daily basis, a weekly basis and a monthly basis. So maybe you know where you want to be in a year’s time; break that down into logical steps. Set yourself a time scale. And then workout what you need to achieve on a daily basis – we work more efficiently when we are working towards a target, now just make sure that you stick to these daily targets rigidly and do not stop working until you achieve them (at minimum).
Focus on a single task at once
That means that when you are working on a project you do not get to check emails or answer the phone. Here you divide your day into segments and work only on one thing during this time. It is been shown to result in quicker working and more productivity than if you attempt to ‘juggle’ multiple tasks and it also results in a higher quality of work for what you do manage to complete.
Delegate and use software
You do not need to perform every job yourself and by delegating your tasks to others you can save yourself a lot of time and also get more unique ideas and thoughts contributed to the project. Similarly by using the correct software you can get your computers to take a fair amount of the work load off of your shoulders – this is after all what computers are for. A little time spent researching software that can help with your work might save you a lot of time in the future.
Just as a good piece of software might be able to automate something you are currently spending hours on, so a dodgy computer or printer that always breaks can take up hours. Make sure then that all your hardware is in perfect working condition and it will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Prioritise with to-do lists
To-do lists are a useful way to set yourself daily goals and targets and to prioritise tasks on your to do list. Do not allow yourself to move on to the next task until you have finished the first.
While it is important not to juggle tasks such as e-mails and report writing, other specific types of work can lend themselves to forms of multi-tasking. For example if you are driving somewhere and you have a hands-free kit then this provides a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Think about calls you can be making when travelling. Similarly think about whether you can work on train journeys for example. Or if you are into fitness whether you can not curl some weights while watching your favourite programme. Notice how the tasks that are suitable for multitasking are those that do not require you to put any creative input into the process.
Streamline your procedures
Think about what you are doing on a regular basis, how useful that is, and how you could make it quicker or more efficient. For example if you are constantly going to meetings is that really prudent? Could the same thing just as easily be achieved by e-mail or phone? If you have to travel could it not be a video conference? Similarly, once you are in the meeting, why not tell everyone they have to stand? You can be sure they will start talking more quickly. Think about other procedures too that could be a waste of time and challenge the way you currently do things.
Do not waste anything. That means minutes, word, money… anything you produce or achieve during any amount of time can be used in some form or another. For example if you are playing a game then can you somehow use it to brainstorm or for information? If you are travelling to work could you jog and make it a workout? Or think as you walk and plan your day ahead? Similarly do not delete any of your work as you never know when you might be able to use it.
Include time off and flexible time in your schedule
While you are breaking your day up into segments, make sure you include both time off and time that you can use in a variety of ways. The time off is important as it will give your brain a chance to refresh for round two keeping you at optimum effectiveness. The ‘flexible time’ is important as you can not always predict what’s going to happen during a day. If you have packed your schedule and then find that someone needs to talk to you then it will push your whole day back. If you have factored in some free time however then you can always use this free slot in order to address your colleague or client.
That includes the little breaks too. Any time you go out for a cigarette or make a tea you are wasting time. Schedule these in and it will give you something to look forward and will help you focus in the times between.